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Cuomo Prime Time

New Book: Top Generals Feared Trump Would Attempt A Coup After Election; Britney Spears Tearfully Pleads Court To End Conservatorship; Miami Mayor On Historic Cuba Unrest. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: All right, Randi Kaye, appreciate it, thanks very much.

That's it for us. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson, I appreciate it.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have breaking news tonight. It was worse than we knew. What was?

According to the book, "I Alone Can Fix," obtained by CNN, General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was so shaken, after the November election. He feared that Trump and his allies might attempt a coup. He and other top officials informally planned ways to stop it.

And these revelations come from these two Pulitzer Prize winning reporters at "The Washington Post," Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, in their book that chronicles Trump's final year in the White House.

According to the book, Milley told his deputies quote, "They may try, but they're not going to effing succeed. You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."

So, what is getting lost in this? Because this first flurry of the media is always about "Oh, the military was upset and, because Trump was so bad." I get it. But now you got to pause at this point.

You've heard the headlines. What's the real question? Why did they feel this way, OK? Why did Milley and others worry so much? Well, it turns out they thought that Trump was going to order them to keep him in power. But did he? Did he ever suggest anything like it? It matters.

Another missed question is if they did think that was happening, why did they believe their best response was to plan to resign one by one? They write that Milley's concerns only grew after Trump purged Pentagon leadership right after the election. That included the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. You remember the General that stood aside Esper's successor, a week

after the election, and said this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or a religion. We take an oath to the Constitution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now you know why he came with that message!

So, in "I Alone Can Fix It," the authors write that Milley viewed Trump as the classic authoritarian leader, with nothing to lose. He drew parallels to Hitler.

The book says Milley told aides quote, "This is a Reichstag moment... could be the modern American equivalent of "brownshirts in the streets," referring to the pro-Nazi militia that fueled Hitler's rise to power. Now, that's heavy stuff, especially for a military man to compare somebody to Hitler!

Fast forward to after the January 6 insurrection. The book says Milley held a conference call each day, with Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to collectively survey the horizon for trouble. What does that mean?

And it describes the relief that Milley says he felt when Joe Biden was inaugurated, on January 20th, relief that there had not been a coup, thinking to himself, quote, "Thank God Almighty, we landed the ship safely." What did they do to land the ship safely?

The book quotes him speaking to the Obamas, sitting on the inauguration stage, Michelle Obama asked Milley how he felt. His answer, "No one has a bigger smile today than I do. You can't see it under my mask, but I do."

Let's unpack this, all right? You have politics and you have military here. Let's look at both, OK? We have Jim Acosta, Smerc - Michael Smerconish. And we also have Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Phil Mudd.

So, we're going to tackle all parts of this. We'll talk to Mudd and Hertling in a second about the military, and what makes sense here, and what doesn't. But let's talk politics first.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining me.

Jim, do you hear anything out of the former administration--

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

CUOMO: --about what is true and what isn't true here?

ACOSTA: Yes, I mean, Chris, this aligns with a lot of what we were reporting, around the time of the election, and then the insurrection.

I talked to a source close to Trump, around the time of the insurrection, who said that Trump had lost his mind that he had lost it. And he was essentially trying everything by hook, or by crook, to overturn the election results at that time.

What is very disturbing about what General Milley is reported to have said, is that this goes back years, Chris.

I will tell you, I've talked to two former senior White House officials, who have told me that Trump is quote, "Insane." They have both used that word "Insane." The question becomes Chris, what do we do about this information?

Donald Trump, I think, it is very clear, and it is coming out in these books, and is becoming more clear, between November 3rd, and the January 6th insurrection, was attempting to carry out an administrative coup, if not a bloody coup, at the Capitol, on January 6th.

[21:05:00]

And the question I think, we all have to come to grips with, at some point, is what should be done about it.

And I think, arguably, Donald Trump committed crimes, on the way to January 6. Is anything going to be done about it? Why have we not had this conversation in this country?

I think it's a critical question, Chris, whether or not the former president of the United States belongs in the slammer, for what he did, between the election and January 6th.

General Milley appears to have put his finger on a very big problem. And that is that Donald Trump was behaving like an Adolf Hitler, who was potentially looking to overthrow the government.

That's a very serious allegation. That's a very serious thought on the part of the former - on the part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman. And I think it's something that the country just has to come to grips with

CUOMO: Mike, your take?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: It's a reminder of how much we still don't know about the events of January 6 in particular.

And I say that because the debate continues, as this Commission, still don't know who the Republican participants will be, is just now getting off the ground.

Beyond that, a question, Chris, CPAC was last weekend. You know who won the straw poll? If this book had come out a week ago, would it have changed any minds in that room? My conclusion? Probably not.

Third observation. I get it. I applaud the concern and the exercise of control, on behalf of Milley and others.

But where were they on January 6? I mean, all I have to go on so far is, is the release of this one portion of the book, which paints this picture of being on guard, and protecting the nation, creating a steel wall, around the Capitol, on January 20.

But if the report is at the same time saying that the concern was there from Election Day forward, then I have to ask, why was January 6 able to take place?

CUOMO: This is why I'm a student of yours, Michael. My head's in the same place. Let me read something to you here, an excerpt.

Please put up the Milley Pelosi conversation.

Because again, it goes to, Jim, were they just afraid of things, or did they have a reason to be afraid?

So, "After the Jan. 6 insurrection, Pelosi told the General, she was deeply concerned that a "Crazy," "Dangerous" and "Maniac" Trump might use nuclear weapons during his final days.

"Ma'am, I guarantee you these processes are very good," Milley reassured her. "There's not going to be an accidental firing of nuclear weapons. We'll only follow legal orders. We'll only do things that are legal, ethical, or moral."

Now, one, that's a little bit of an education to the American public that no, the military doesn't have to automatically follow whatever even the Commander-in-Chief tells them.

But Jim?

ACOSTA: Right.

CUOMO: What were these fears based on? To Michael's point, why did Milley believe that he might have to stop them?

ACOSTA: I--

CUOMO: And did Trump ever do anything to make him any - anything other than afraid? And let's start there. Do we know of anything that ever really happened?

ACOSTA: Chris, I--

CUOMO: Or was this just scared Milley?

ACOSTA: I will tell you. I've done my own reporting on this. I wrote about this in my own book.

There was - there have been instances, during the course of the Trump administration, where people around Trump and other allies that are close to the United States, officials with allies, close to the United States, who were concerned that Donald Trump potentially had his finger on the nuclear button. I wrote about this in my own book that Trump, when he was in Puerto Rico, looking at the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, was bragging to the governor, at that time, about how he had control of the nuclear suitcase. It freaked people out around him. It freaked the Puerto Ricans out at the time.

And I will tell you, I have talked to foreign ambassador officials, here in Washington, who have also been concerned about this. This was also - this was a matter that was brought up, up on Capitol Hill.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee looked at the chain of command that occurs between a President of the United States and generals, when it comes to this use of the nuclear football. This has been a concern. And I--

CUOMO: Right.

ACOSTA: --again, I hate to talk about this stuff, because nobody wants to talk about this stuff. This has been a concern for some time now. This is not a fresh concern.

CUOMO: I get that it was a concern. But Jim? You know what always short-circuits it.

ACOSTA: It's been one that have been talked about for some time.

CUOMO: You've been right. I've heard you. I've never questioned your reporting. But nothing ever happened to confirm these suspicions. And that's I think one of the suggestions--

ACOSTA: That's right.

CUOMO: --that this book is going to have to deal with, or the authors will, or General Milley will.

To this point, Mike, as I come back to you--

ACOSTA: Correct.

CUOMO: --Milley, talking to VP Harris.

Put up the full screen.

"As the inauguration ceremony ended, Kamala Harris, who had just sworn in as vice president, paused to thank Milley. "We all know what you and some others did," she said. "Thank you."

What did they do? What did they do?

SMERCONISH: Well, I know that--

CUOMO: Have a meeting with Meadows?

SMERCONISH: I know I--

CUOMO: And ask whether or not Trump was driving the Crazy Train? I mean, what did they do?

SMERCONISH: Well, I guess, in the end, they didn't need to take dramatic measures, to protect the nation. But let me tell you how that particular exchange is going to be interpreted in half the country.

[21:10:00]

It'll be interpreted as confirmation of the Deep State. "Aha! There was Vice President Harris now thanking the guy, who was protecting the back of the Democrats, who wanted there to be a change in administration."

I'm not buying into that. I'm just telling you that the narrative of this chapter will be read as confirmation of what they've been saying all along.

CUOMO: Unfortunately, you need to have somebody do something absolutely horrible to confirm suspicions that that might happen. And up until that point, Jim, as we both know--

ACOSTA: Yes.

CUOMO: --that's where the snowflake stuff comes up and all that other BS that they play to.

But look, Jim, you've been on it from the beginning, that the concerns were real, and they went all the way to the top.

Jim Acosta, Michael Smerconish, thank you for helping us unpack the politics.

Now we go to the military mindset here. What they perceived? Why they perceived it? What they did? How they responded? What about that part? We have two great military minds, who understand how politics and the military work together, or not, OK?

I know we've never heard fears, from Pentagon brass, like we've heard. But are they warranted? Next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: So, this reporting comes out about this book that the top Pentagon officials, in the military, were worried that there may be a coup. Why?

Was it just all of the atmospherics that we saw on January 6th? Or did they have reason to believe that Trump was going to come to them, and try to use them as the muscle, to keep power?

How concerned should we be that these officials were secretly drawing response plans, in case the President of the United States did try to pull off a coup? How concerned should we be that the best plan they could come up with was to quit?

These are the questions that are provoked by the new book, "I Alone Can Fix It."

Let's discuss the military aspect of this with Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and Phil Mudd.

Gentlemen, thank you.

General, what's your take?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Chris, what I'd tell you is, General Milley, as the Chairman, first of all, most viewers, most of your viewers may not know this, is not in command of any forces.

His role, as the Chairman, by law, is to provide military advice to the President and the SecDef, and advice and testimony to Congress. He believes in civilian control of the military.

We don't know all the things that have happened, over the years, when he was serving as the Chairman, to President Trump. But we have certainly seen some things that President - former president Trump did that are contrary to living up to the Constitution.

We've seen him, on multiple occasions, say that the military will do anything he orders them to do that they will kill terrorist families, and steal oil. And that is that all of these are his generals. So, what you're talking about is indicators of authoritarianism.

Now, Milley believes in civilian control of the military. But as soon as an illegal or immoral order is issued, he will not obey that, and will not pass it along.

The other thing you got to remember too Chris is, I'd suggest, what we haven't talked about at all, is where is the Acting SecDef, in all this, the person who is in the chain of command between the President and the military?

If Milley is the adviser, the Secretary of Defense, in this case, retired Lieutenant Colonel Chris Miller, who had recently been appointed to the job, was in a position to issue the orders to the military. And yet, he was AWOL.

So, all of these things are factors, in Milley standing up, and saying, "Hey, you fellow members of the Joint Chiefs, we are not going to obey an illegal order. We are not going to allow an authoritarian to disrupt our pledge to uphold the oath to our Constitution."

CUOMO: I get it. And Phil, it's totally daunting. It's scary. But based on what, is my point?

What order did Trump ever issue, you know? Was this just very high, high brass being paranoid because of what they suspected? Or is there something that triggered their concern? I mean, that's a big distinction.

In the book, just going through the excerpts I've had, I don't think they - I don't know that they get to it now. And I don't know they need to. Because the headline is enough, were going to drive the media crazy for a couple days.

But isn't the real question, did they have any reason to feel this way?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: It is sort of. I mean, there's a couple ways I would think about this, Chris.

This issue of paranoia, I would take it off the table. People like me, in the CIA, the FBI, particularly in this case, the military, you are trained from day one. We're not elected. They are. As General Hertling said, we support them. That's what we do in this country.

So, for someone like General Milley, with that level of experience, to say "I have questions about whether there will be a peaceful transition, and clearly questions about the President's mindset," that can't simply be paranoia.

What we're missing here is the factual backdrop about conversations he heard, interactions with the President that led him to believe this was so.

Let me close with the upside here. The fact, that you have a military, who says "Look, it's not our job to intervene here, if this happens. We'll resign before the military takes a frontal role in managing government," to me, that's heartening.

They weren't going to stick around, if they saw something unconstitutional. They were going to leave. That's the right move.

CUOMO: You're shaking your head, General, in agreement. You're nodding your head rather.

HERTLING: Yes, absolutely. And--

CUOMO: Help convince me though, General, because I don't - I don't get it yet. Resign? That's the best thing that you can do, in terms of--

HERTLING: Well yes, that is the best thing you can do--

CUOMO: --if you were worried about a coup?

[21:20:00] HERTLING: --because that sends a signal to the American people that there is chaos, within the military.

And when one individual that let's just say the Chief of Staff of the Army resigns, and then the Commandant of Naval - or I'm sorry, the Chief of Naval Operations resigns, then you know that there is something desperately wrong within the military, and within the government.

And that has happened very rarely in our history, when a senior- ranking general officer resigns. It means that something is in dire trouble.

I'll reinforce what Phil said. There is other reportings, where Milley was in the room, hearing the President talking about mobilizing the entire active force, to stop in - stop the rioters. There were other reports, where he's saying "Shoot American citizens," or "Shoot them in the legs, if you don't want to shoot to kill."

These are kinds of things that really lead toward a civil war, and violate the military's oath, to support the civilian sectors of our society, which by the way, also takes an oath, to defend the Constitution, which some have, some have not.

CUOMO: OK, I get it. I get the checks and balances argument. And I get why this boosts your feeling that these people, in this position, at this time, were doing the right thing.

My question becomes, how should we judge Trump in this, General? I'll start - I'll start with you, Phil, and then I'll finish with you, General.

The, you know, how do we judge Trump in this? Is it that - just that his mouth, and his recklessness, and his ignorance of the office, was just creating more anxiety, as the events around him became more cataclysmic? Or does he deserve more blame?

MUDD: I would say, more blame, for the reason that General Hertling and I are talking about.

When you spend decades, in the service, and you're told from day one, "Whatever these guys say goes. If we want to break the Iran nuclear deal, fine. If we want to invade Iraq, fine. If we want to invade Afghanistan, fine. These are the people, who are elected. And this is what our Constitution says."

When you get somebody like General Milley, and others evidently, who were saying, "We are so concerned about the mindset of the sitting president of the United States that we think there might be a coup attempt that will lead us to resign," Chris, you got to step back, and say "This isn't anxiety. This isn't paranoia. This is a reflection on a president, who professionals are saying is unhinged." I just have never heard of anything like this.

CUOMO: No, me either. General, final word to you. Do you believe, from what you understand of the circumstances, and what you've heard, in context from the men and women that you know, in the highest echelons of the service, that this is an alarm that people should pay attention to, because they had reason to feel this way about Trump?

HERTLING: Yes, absolutely. And I have heard it multiple times from a lot of senior-ranking, both military and government, officials.

It was apparent to many, Chris, that Trump was dead-set on controlling all the institutions of our democracy, not for the support of the people, but for his personal use and gain.

Some institutions, the courts, the Intel community, the military, they wavered a little bit, but they stayed firm. There were other institutions that did not.

And what we've seen, and what has been so frustrating, to many, who have worked in government, is when we see that balance of power that you talked about, and people debating what they should do, are abrogating their responsibilities to do the right thing, to support the Constitution.

And we've seen that over the last couple of years. That's when the trouble arises. Thank God for General Milley, in my view.

CUOMO: General Hertling, Phil Mudd, thank you very much, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

MUDD: Thanks.

CUOMO: Look, Left and Right, on an issue like this, it's about being reasonable. We've never heard anything like this before. And it's not because military people haven't spoken to journalists before.

If you have an open mind, what does this tell you about how that administration should be remembered, and what it means that Trump is still the biggest name in his party?

To other poison politics, pandemic disinformation, the White House says "Enough is enough. We have to start fighting the lies, because they are killing Americans." Vaccine conspiracies, the BS, it's preventing millions from getting the shot, and the shot could save them.

How does the President break through the disinformation on vaccines and pandemic hoax BS? Let's going to ask - let's talk to a Republican lawmaker. He's a doctor. He believes in the vaccine. What does he think about the politics here? Next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: So now we learn that the United States military's top brass devised a plan to prevent former President Trump, from potentially staging a coup, after the 2020 election.

Why were they so worried? Because of what they saw, surrounding January 6th, how they were getting rid of everybody, in the Trump administration, from the upper echelons of the Pentagon.

Does it matter to Trumpers? Let's bring in a Republican congressman, Dr. Michael Burgess, of Texas, on this.

It's good to see you, sir, as always.

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX): Well, good to see you.

Can I just correct one thing? It's I don't believe in the vaccine. I believe in God. But I think the vaccine was an answer to our prayers.

CUOMO: What is that supposed to mean?

BURGESS: Oh, you went before the break, you said that I believe in the vaccine.

Well, actually, I believe the vaccine was an answer to prayer, certainly a prayer that I had prayed many, many nights, between January of 2020, and when we finally got the Emergency Use Authorization.

CUOMO: Do you think the vaccine works?

BURGESS: I don't think there's any question. Just look at the data. Look at the - look at the hospitalizations. Look at the deaths. You saw where we were in October, November, December. And those rates have now plummeted.

[21:30:00]

Sure, you've got a couple of variants, out there, that are causing a great deal of concern, the Delta and the Lambda variants. They don't seem - they seem to be more infective. Not sure if they're more - if they're more lethal, or if they pose problems to people who've already had the two doses of the vaccine.

But people need to pay attention to this. It's all - it's all- important information. This is, after all, a novel virus that no one's had a whole lot of experience with this, up until now.

CUOMO: You say people need to pay attention to this.

BURGESS: Yes.

CUOMO: Is that fair? Isn't the truth that's too many people have been paying attention to members of your party, who are lying to them, about the vaccine--

BURGESS: Well--

CUOMO: --and telling them that it's "Deep State government overreach. It doesn't really work. You don't really need it. A Democratic ploy?"

BURGESS: I've heard that, Chris. But look, I think the current administration missed a wonderful opportunity in March.

In fact, Andy Slavitt recommended to, before President Biden gave a big speech, one night, he said, "I'd give a tip of the hat to the previous administration for a good job, job well done on the vaccine," because it was a job well done.

I was in those meetings in January 2020. Many of those public health officials that you would recognize, if I called them by name, said it will be 18 months before we get a vaccine. And that's if everything goes perfectly.

CUOMO: Right.

BURGESS: And nothing ever goes perfectly, 18 months would be where we are today. Could you imagine if we were just now getting the Emergency Use Authorization, for one of those vaccines?

CUOMO: God forbid, to borrow--

BURGESS: We got three.

CUOMO: --to borrow your faith mechanism.

But let me ask you this. Imagine where we would be if the designer of Operation Warp Speed, in a way, certainly at the top of the food chain, President Trump, had told people to take the vaccine, had told people he had taken it. And that he had given it to his family.

BURGESS: I think he did.

CUOMO: And he had pushed it robustly. And people like you had been on him to do so, when he wasn't.

BURGESS: Well he did.

CUOMO: Imagine then where we would be.

BURGESS: I think he did. Yes. He went on television and had said he had taken the vaccine, Chris, people to take it.

CUOMO: He did it - he did it as little as he could, Doctor.

BURGESS: But look, here's the deal. Here's the deal.

CUOMO: And you know it.

BURGESS: People need to do their own research, figure things out. I mean, this is - you don't have to be told by your government, whether it's a good or a bad thing. Figure it out. Look at the disease rates, and what has happened since January 1st of this year?

CUOMO: You don't think that it was the former president's job--

BURGESS: And it's nothing short of stunning.

CUOMO: --to tell people that the vaccine was good, available, and to take it as often as he told them that the election was a lie, and that he was still a president, and that there was fraud?

You don't think the vaccine being pushed was more of a mandate for him than that? You really think he did enough in pushing the vaccine, really?

BURGESS: Oh, I absolutely. Look, the vaccine would not even be here, had he not pushed it, because he was told by his public health officials, "Look, 20 years ago, we beat SARS. We didn't have a vaccine. We didn't have an antiviral. We did it with public health measures, quarantine and contact tracing."

Except with this virus, that didn't work because of that long latency period. Remember that? That 10 days to two weeks where you could be infective and not symptomatic?

CUOMO: Yes.

BURGESS: That was a big problem with this virus.

CUOMO: Right. But we got the vaccine. And then they didn't push it.

And then, to make it worse, you know what the numbers are right now. Do you think it's a coincidence that you have so many more Republican, and Trump supporters, who aren't vaccinated, and that so many of them say they're not going to take it, for some political reason?

BURGESS: Well I--

CUOMO: How they cheered at CPAC? Let me play you some of the sound that makes my point before you shake your head.

BURGESS: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. But the thing is--

CUOMO: Hold on. Representative? Let me play this for the audience.

BURGESS: --when you mandate something, you are going to drive oppositional behavior. And this is known. And I don't know why - I don't know why--

CUOMO: Wait, hold on. Representative, I lost you.

BURGESS: --people have that the--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Say it again.

BURGESS: --to learn that lesson.

CUOMO: I lost you for a second, Representative Cassidy (ph). Say it again. What is driving oppositional behavior?

BURGESS: When you place a mandate, a government mandate, the government says "You have to take this," it drives oppositional behavior.

Look, I was a medical student, back in the 1970s. I remember Gerald Ford told us we all had to take the swine flu vaccine, until they found out it caused Guillain-Barre, and then they said, "Don't take it."

So, people understand that if there is a mandate - look, you got to do your own research. You got to figure it out.

CUOMO: There is no mandate.

BURGESS: You talk to your trusted health care professional. And that's the best advice I could give you.

CUOMO: But there is no mandate.

BURGESS: Talk to your trusted health care professional, and get the - get the straight story on this viral--

CUOMO: There is but--

BURGESS: --on the vaccine.

CUOMO: Hold on. Representative, I got to tell you, I'm having a hard time following. There is no mandate.

What there is, is messaging like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Great. Why were all these people lying about it? Honest question. And they were lying. Clearly, they were lying.

ROB SCHMITT, NEWSMAX HOST: And I feel like a vaccination, in a weird way, is just generally kind of going against nature.

[21:35:00]

Maybe there's just an ebb and flow to life, where something's supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that's just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): According to the VAERS system, we are over 3,000 deaths after, within 30 days of taking the vaccine.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: Government and so-called public health experts are trying to force your kids, to get injected, with an experimental COVID vaccine, whether you want them to or not.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): And then they come and intimidate you to take the vaccine, by day. Well you get to tell them to get the hell off of your lawn.

BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But the focus of this administration on vaccination is mind-boggling.

Plus, they're going to be knocking on your door soon. So go home, check your Ring doorbell. Anthony Fauci might be there in a smock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You're OK with this kind of jackassery that has absolutely led to a deficiency, among Republican people, in this country, taking the vaccine? And now they're getting sick. And now we're seeing what we see at the hospitals. And now the age is reducing.

BURGESS: Look, you're--

CUOMO: And the variant is spreading. You're OK with this?

BURGESS: You're conflating a number of things.

Look, no one really knows in the - in the younger age groups, who are at very low risk, from the Coronavirus, no one really knows. And it is important that that information, people are doing the research on that. That information needs to be transparent and shared. And again, people need to make up their own minds.

I got to tell you, I got a call this evening, from someone at the CDC, wanting to know if I've been vaccinated. For crying out loud, you gave me the vaccine. You should know. You shouldn't have to call me and ask me.

CUOMO: So, what does that have to do with anything?

The people showing up at the hospital, who are very sick, are almost, without exception, unvaccinated. The people who are dying, 99 percent are unvaccinated.

BURGESS: So - so that is the message--

CUOMO: You have people, who are connected to your political party that you are not speaking out against, who are--

BURGESS: Sir? That is the message--

CUOMO: --telling people not to take it. You're OK with that?

BURGESS: That is the message that people should be getting. Who is coming - showing up at the hospital sick? It is unvaccinated people. Now look, we don't know, at this point, with the Delta variant and then the newer Lambda variant, if it is as lethal as the original Coronavirus. But it could be. And if you - if you take the vaccine and you're much less likely to get ill, then for heaven's sakes, consider taking the vaccine.

CUOMO: I understand that.

BURGESS: If you don't want to take the vaccine, then make sure you have an N95 mask. Avoid crowds. Stay six feet away from people.

CUOMO: They're not going to do that.

BURGESS: And wash your hands, and don't touch your face.

CUOMO: They are not going to do that. Trump mocked masks. People celebrated not wearing the masks. You saw what just happened at CPAC.

Here's what I don't get. And we'll end on this, last word to you.

I understand what you're saying that you believe in the vaccine. I know you believe in God, I get it, that the vaccine was the answer to your prayers. It works. People should take it.

BURGESS: Absolutely.

CUOMO: But why don't you call out the people, who are giving an opposite, ignorant, and toxic message, on why not to take it?

BURGESS: Oh, I have discussions with people all the time.

CUOMO: But say it now.

BURGESS: And--

CUOMO: Say that what I just showed you in that video is wrong, for people to be doing on TV, that members of Congress--

BURGESS: Well people--

CUOMO: --from your party that are saying "Don't take the vaccine" are wrong.

BURGESS: Don't - don't listen to me. Talk to your - talk to your doctor. Talk to a trusted health care professional.

CUOMO: You're an elected representative.

BURGESS: Get the straight information.

CUOMO: Don't you think you should make your voice heard?

BURGESS: Don't listen to people on political talking shows. That's not where you should get your medical information.

CUOMO: But what about for members of Congress, who say "Don't take the vaccine. I don't buy it."

BURGESS: Well I'm telling you to take it, so buy that.

CUOMO: What about the people who say otherwise?

BURGESS: Well, they're wrong. Take the vaccine. If you're in the age group, where you--

CUOMO: I'm with you.

BURGESS: --could be devastated by the illness.

CUOMO: I get it. I'm just saying it's hard to tell people the truth, when a lot of people are lying to them, about something that matters so much. That's why I wanted you on, Congressman.

BURGESS: Thank you.

CUOMO: I respect you as a clinician. I respect your position on this. We need voices like yours, to speak truth, to the poisonous. That's why I want you on.

Congressman Michael Burgess, good luck to you, and stay healthy.

BURGESS: Yes, thank you.

CUOMO: All right.

There's breaking news tonight, in Britney Spears' battle for freedom. She's got a new lawyer, OK? That will probably make all the difference. The pop star spoke to a court again today, this time in tears, accusing her father of abuse. A judge ruled in her favor. She's got her own lawyer.

We're going to bring in her former attorney, to set the stage now, for what this means, and what will happen next.

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CUOMO: Today, a judge finally approved Britney Spears' request to hire her own attorney, in the battle to end her 13-year conservatorship, overseen by her father. Now, as we've spoken before, these are for people, who can't handle

their own affairs. How does she perform, how does she do so many shows, how does she create so much media, if she's incompetent?

She spoke to the court, Spears, by phone, and was heard, at times, sobbing, describing her conservatorship as "Effing cruelty," adding "If this isn't abuse, I don't what is. I thought they were trying to kill me." And "I'd like to charge my father with conservatorship abuse. I want to press charges against my father today. I want an investigation into my dad."

First things first, let's bring in Adam Streisand, Britney Spears' former attorney.

Good to have you. Quickly, how big a deal is it that she's been allowed to hire counsel? And what will that mean for next?

ADAM STREISAND, BRITNEY SPEARS' FORMER ATTORNEY: I think everything changes, Chris.

First of all, I think we're going to see immediately a petition to terminate the conservatorship. But, as you heard today, she wants investigation.

Now, here's the really interesting thing about that. Everybody involved in this conservatorship, over the past 13 years, have been obtaining orders, from the court, approving all of their actions and their conduct and their compensation.

And the rule is if you get notice, and you don't object, those orders are binding. You'll remember that from law school, as res judicata. And they're going to argue, "Well, she got notice, because her former lawyer was getting notice."

But here's the unprecedented thing about this conservatorship. Her lawyer obtained an order saying that he didn't have to show Britney anything that was being filed, in her case.

So, the argument now is going to be how could she possibly have waived her rights to object, if she wasn't even able to see these things?

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So, all of those people who thought that all of these chapters have been closed, over 13 years, they're going to be worried right now that ain't so, because we got a lawyer now, who isn't interested in the game of "I'll scratch your back, and you scratch mine."

CUOMO: Yes, Rosengart looks to have his claws out, in a different way, to really attack and rip down this conservatorship. That has to happen first, right before all this abuse stuff, and all the ancillary litigation.

What happens next, in terms of determining whether or not the conservatorship should be dissolved?

STREISAND: So, I would expect a petition immediately to be filed that this conservatorship should be terminated.

And keep in mind, conservatorship can only exist, and should be terminated, unless it's the last possible resort. It's the - it's the only means to be able to help somebody.

And there is no way, given everything that we know now that there aren't other ways of helping her, if she needs help, to function in any way, whether it's financially, or with her - her medical care what have you.

CUOMO: But is it going to be a psychiatrist battle? I mean, what happens next?

STREISAND: Yes so--

CUOMO: A hearing?

STREISAND: Yes. So, first of all, that is typically the way it goes that we have a battle of the experts, to say, whether or not she has the ability to be able to function. But it involves all kinds of other evidence. It doesn't even necessarily need to be a psychiatric evidence.

Hey, show that she's able to function, and that she's able to make decisions. And if - and if there are other ways to help her that she's got the means and the resources to get those - that help.

CUOMO: Counselor, thank you very much. When we see the next piece--

STREISAND: My pleasure.

CUOMO: --I'll come back to you, to make sense of it for us, in the entire sequence of getting some finality here. Appreciate you.

Speaking of freedom, Cuba, keep it on your mind, look, first of all proximity, all right?

Second of all, there is just such generations of pain, fellow Americans, who are looking back at family and property that they've never been able to access, they've never been able to help, because of a dictatorial system.

Is it about to end? What should America do? What do these protests mean? How could it go bad?

The Mayor of Miami thinks the U.S. military should maybe needed. Why? Next.

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CUOMO: The Cuban people are in the streets in an unprecedented way. Their demands, food and medicine, really fundamental freedoms.

A fraction of Cubans are vaccinated. COVID cases are exploding on the island that always boasted its tremendous pharmaceutical and medical capabilities. On top of that, it is the worst food shortage since the 90s.

Cuba is less than 100 miles from Florida. The crisis there is absolutely going to impact us, starting in communities like Miami. My next guest, Francis Suarez is the Mayor there.

It's good to see you, Mr. Mayor.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: It's good to see you, Chris. Thank you so much for having me.

CUOMO: So, one quick question. I remember, for the audience, the first time I went to Cuba, seeing written on a wall, there's a lot of propaganda there obviously, from the Castros, but one of the expressions is "Cuba si, Cuba vali, Cuba Dura (ph)." "Yes to Cuba! Cuba is worthy! Cuba is tough!"

And I remember asking somebody there if this was from the government, and they said to me, "No, Cuba is its people. We are held down by its government."

Do you think the moment has finally come, where the people will be freed of a dictatorial regime?

SUAREZ: That is obviously our hope, you know? We've never seen the kind of spontaneous protests that we've seen across the island.

And I really want to thank you for highlighting this, because I think, in all your prefatory comments, you've talked about how this is very important to the United States. And it's very important to people that are living in the United States that have family in Cuba that are dramatically impacted by this.

But the Cubans have done something that has never happened in the 60- year dictatorship, which is spontaneously uprise, in 40 different cities, at an incredible risk to their lives. They are hitting the streets. And they have nothing to defend themselves with.

They're being repressed violently, the last couple of days, after the Sunday uprising. And my hope, and my prayer is that they're able to find a peaceful way to transition to democracy, and that this is the moment. We're hoping that this is the moment. CUOMO: Well, that rarely happens, I mean, even what we saw in the Arab Spring, with much bigger numbers going against a much less powerful government structure, over those people.

One question, I think the immediate need that America can satisfy - we have like, what? 30 million doses of AstraZeneca, sitting in our stockpile?

Shouldn't the first move be, for the U.S. government, to provide internet access, unless that's going to get it kicked out by the government, but to offer medicine, offer the food, to get the people the essentials that they need, to sustain whatever energy they have, before any kind of military or confrontational involvement that will probably end America's ability to help, on a humanitarian level?

SUAREZ: Absolutely. I think, obviously, we as a country have an incredibly - we're incredibly generous. And we have the resources to be able to help Cuba. We see that there's a tragedy in Haiti as well. And the region is obviously suffering tremendously.

I think, of course, every effort should be made initially to come up with a diplomatic solution. And of course, we should offer, as you said, medical resources, food resources.

But, at the end of the day, the Cuban people are not chanting, "We want food. We want medicine." They're chanting, "We want liberty." They're not complaining about the embargo. They're not chanting "Down with the embargo! Down with the United States!"

They're chanting "Down with the Diaz-Canel regime. We want liberty!" And that's what they're fighting for. And that's what they're - what they're being brutally repressed over.

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CUOMO: Do you believe that the U.S. military should go in first?

SUAREZ: No, I think - I think what we need to do is exhaust all remedies. I think a military option is obviously always the last option. In sort of the just war theory, a military option is always an option when all other options have been exhausted.

What I do believe, though, is I was born here in this country. I'm an American. And my parents came to this country at 1906 (ph). And I'm very proud of the moments in history, where this country has fought to liberate people, throughout the world.

And I think that option is one that shouldn't be off the table. It should be discussed, and I think if for no other reason, to keep the Cuban government honest.

They, right now, have absolutely no fear that anything is going to happen to them, to hold them accountable, for the kinds of reprisals that we're seeing, people getting killed, and people getting beaten every single day.

CUOMO: I think the first level of commitment has to be attention. American people have to care.

There are a few situations, really, I would argue Cuba is unique, in terms of the strength of the Cuban community here, and almost, you know, you're young, but - you're accomplished, but you're young. But the idea of the connection and what's been done here, by people who fled from there, makes it unique.

Mayor Suarez, we will stay on it.

SUAREZ: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Thank you.

SUAREZ: Thank you so much, Chris. That means the world to us.

CUOMO: The handoff, next.

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